Videos of how various washing machines work. These don't really tell you what to do (read the How-To-Booklet or the Quick Start Guide that comes with your order). These videos just give you an idea of HOW the machines themselves work when washing.
All three videos show the exact same diaper load of 30 size small yellow edge prefolds washing with one bright dish towel added to help you see the agitation more easily.
HE top load washing machine in action washing diapers. It balls things up into circles. That's a problem for all-in-ones that are waterproof on one side. Check out the super fast spin cycle at the end. UPDATE - this machine broke after 3 years and 2 weeks which brought me just outside of the 3 year warranty. Since I have 3 washers, it wasn't used very much at all during those 3 years since it was my least favorite. I think the spin cycle was too fast for itself. My guess is that to make this one last longer, I should have avoided using the fastest spin cycle entirely.
Maytag front loading washing machine in action washing diapers. Lift and drop.
Speed Queen Top load washer in action. It cleans really well, very quickly.
2014 Speed Queen shown. This model is similar to today's TC5 model. Notice the C in TC5. Don't confuse it with the TR models. TR models are different and they do not have this style of agitation. The TC5 is the one with this beautiful agitation. I really like this type of agitation in a washing machine because it actually works.
Almost any washing machine in good working condition will work but some are better than others. Learning how your washer actually works can help you get your laundry cleaner more easily in whatever you have.
There are differences in how various machines of various brands work and understanding how your own machine works is useful. No one can tell you how exactly YOU should wash your diapers. Machines and water composition varies a lot. You will see many opinions and suggestions on the internet and various schools of thought. Don't sweat it. You've been washing your clothes already so you can do this. Just observe your situation and figure out your own system. I hope these videos are helpful, even if they are a bit boring. The might save you time you'd otherwise need to spend watching your own machine working.
In my opinion (Karen), a good quality top loader cleans best, and an HE top loader is next-best, and the most challenging kind is a front loading machine and their cycles take a long time. If you can find a 2017 or older top load washer that works or can be repaired, that's probably going to be the best machine you can get. It will use more water than newer machines though, so there are tradeoffs. The new laws for machines made 2018 and later really changed washers.
Some families actually buy a second washing machine, and love having 2 machines for their growing families long after the diapering years are over. That's not an option for everyone of course and it is not needed, but if you happen to find yourself in a position where a second washer is an option for your, go for it.
Hand washing works just fine. A tub or a bucket and a plunger are every effective!
Any washer you happen to have is great. It can work.
A diaper sprayer attached to the toilet is wonderful thing to have. I cloth diapered for 3 years without a diaper sprayer with no trouble, but now that I have one I do love it. If you are shopping for a washer, standard, simple top-loader cleans best but will probably wear out fabrics faster than the more gentle HE machines. Super-heated cycles over 150 degrees on expensive washers are not recommended for diapers since they will destroy the cotton, and the super-heating is not necessary. From our experience, very expensive front loading washers and automatic water level top loading machines make diaper washing more difficult than a top loader. More expensive does not mean "better at cleaning" when it comes to the price of washers. Except however, if you can get a warm rinse that is nice to have, because warm water helps rinse detergent residue easier than cold water. If you can get a warm rinse, get that wonderful option. Newer HE top loaders have enough water to clean well and are more gentle on the fabrics than the standard top loaders that have sharp edges on the center agitator seem to be working well for people. Some of the first generation front loader washers (2000-2001 models) didn't clean well and some of the first HE top loaders had issues, but those are exceptions. Machine manufacturers improved their products since then and most machines do work. To wash laundry, you just need water and some mechanical action. A plunger in a 5 gallon bucket works great for hand washing and hand washing really does work. A "Breathing Washer" is a great tool. Many of our customers do hand wash. So don't worry about your machine. This is just information and my thoughts. That's all.
If you have a swirl post in your top loader with sharp edges, that style of agitator has thinner and sharper edges and those edges tend to wear out fabrics more quickly than the agitator shown in the Speed Queen video if you overstuff the machine and grind your items. Shopping for a washer? Models change so quickly that I am not sure what to recommend. Swirl agitator top loaders get things clean easily but possibly may wear fabric out more quickly - especially if your load size selection is not correct for the load (not enough water - too much of a "stew consistency" will wear thing out more quickly - too much rubbing). Getting your load size correct will help a lot so the diapers swish through correctly. I'm not a fan of front load washers but it is possible to make them work. Some front loaders have a filter that needs regular cleaning. Read your manual.
USA made machines might off-gas less when new because the gaskets and parts are generally made of higher quality materials. Keep your lungs away from new appliances when they run at first in any case. It's not ok to breathe those chemicals. Another reason to choose made in USA when you can is that parts are usually easier to get for USA machines, just in case something should need a repair someday.
If you already have one of those low water front loading machines, don't worry! It's ok! I've successfully cleaned diapers in all kinds of machines including a very, very low water first-generation Whirlpool Duet and my diapers were clean even though that machine was very lousy. You can make it work.
More information on how to succeed with low-water washers is found in the 16 page Green Mountain How To Wash Cloth Diapers Booklet, which is free with your order when you add it to your cart. Basically, what you need to do is run short cycles to get additional water changes, because they use such a small amount of water so that your main hot cycle is not done in dirty water. Spraying the poop off the diapers before putting them in the pail helps a lot so you need fewer cycles so it will take less time. Using the soak cycle can also help because time in water is helpful too. So you see, there are so many, many ways to do all of this. You will come up with your own method over time. If you have a very challenging washing situation, stay with 100% cotton and choose thinner diapers. Flats are the very best for easy washing, and prefolds are the next best and also very good for difficult washing situations, too. Avoid polyester and stay-dry diapers because they are very difficult to wash. Polyester stay-dry fabrics and microfiber are notoriously stinky and hard to clean. A load full of waterproof plastic pocket diapers is harder to wash then an all cotton load. Cotton washes best. It washes better than hemp and bamboo, too.
Karen's thoughts: My perfect washer doesn't exist thanks to federal regulations, but the closest thing is a Speed Queen TC5 top loader (no affiliation, this is my experience). In my imagination, change the drum inside the Speed Queen to be a drum like the Maytag HE Top Loader which has a zillion holes in it. I want to be able to control the water level but newer TC5s only have 2 water level settings. I don't want a crazy-fast spin cycle that rips apart laundry, causes the washers to break and may even be dangerous should the machine break while spinning so fast. I don't want a washer that curls everything and often goes out of balance like many HE top loaders do. I'd like to be able to pre-program my cloth diaper cycle so I have one button to press and then walk away. This way I don't have to re-start the washer later which sometimes I don't manage to do right away, which slows down the washing process. A one-button cloth diaper program would enable any family member to start the diaper load. Wouldn't that be nice! Overall, Speed Queen top loader in the TC5 version is the best machine that I know of, hands down. Be careful about the model number because TR5 is not the same as the TC5. You want the TC5. The C is for Commercial and they function differently. TC5 works like an old fashioned washing machine before gov regulations came into effect in 2018. An inexpensive top load machine with very few options is another choice that will probably clean surprisingly well. It is possible to get diapers clean in any working machine, but it's faster and easier in a top loader that actually has water in it.
Be SURE to clean your washer regularly! Active Washing Machine Cleaner or similar fragrance-free washing machine cleaning product is good, not the smell-a-fresh stuff. Keep fragrance and perfumes out of all your laundry products.
Empty the filter if your front loader has one. Replace your Agitator Dogs if you have a standard top load washer and it has those. Look up your washer manual to find out how to maintain yours.
Here is the basic outline of all wash routines
Step 1. Somehow you need to get the pee and poop off the diapers so that your main wash is not full of soiled water.
Step 2. Run a main hot wash with detergent to clean the diapers.
Step 3. Somehow you need to rinse the diapers so the detergent is no longer in the diapers.
Step 4. Get the diapers dry somehow.
Yes, you can do this. Go to Washing Diapers page.